Monday, August 07, 2006

A Serious Difference Between DC and Marvel

If you really want to be serious about comics, you have to read Marvel. Marvel is serious, man. Marvel tackles serious issues (except for rape). Marvel's characters have serious problems (I mean, other than Joe Quesada).

If you want to understand just how serious Marvel is, read any of their stuff that's supposed to be funny. Urk.

When I talk to DC readers, I hear them say things like, "my comics were so much fun this week!" (assuming, you know, that they think decapitations, eye-gougings, sunderance, and rape are "fun"). When I talk to Marvel fans, everything's about relative badassedness, which character can beat which, and how many pounds each can benchpress.

Marvel's characters can, for the most part, go in two very large boxes:

Or, as I usually think of it, What Adolescents Feel Like and What Adolescents Want To Feel Like.

In either case, it's very serious. Adolescents like to be taken very seriously and to take everything else very seriously. Not like kids. Kids are only interested in "fun"; silly DC comics are just for kids.

What knocks off the socks of a Marvel reader? A story full of Insert Anti-Hero killing bad guys or Insert Hero's inability to pull his life together despite every possible advantage, including high intelligence and superpowers.

What knocks off the socks of a DC reader? One page of Dr. Virus with Kryptococcus the Omni-Germ or a cameo by Mr. Terrible.

Anyway, as a result of all this seriousnosity, Marvel takes things seriously that DC cannot, like Marvel's villains. If you try to imagine that Marvel villains were suddenly folded into the DCU or to identify the New Earth counterparts of the villains of "Earth 616" , and you get something like...


I'm not saying Marvel's or DC's villains are "lame" (whatever that empty bit of teenage argot is supposed to mean). I'm not saying DC's villains aren't serious threats. Just from the above list, for example, Amazo, Chemo, and Dr. Psycho are quite threatening. But they have their lighter side (as befits Villains Whose Names End In "O").

I guess what I'm saying is:

Labels: ,


Comments:
"well, I don't think DC has any characters whose power is running into stuff with their heads..."

There was Hardhat of the Demolition Team, but he's not as well-known. Anyway, as a punch-drunk former boxer named Hardhat, the fun DC villain model seems intact here.

The guy almost comes off as a parody of Juggernaut, really.
 
Actually, I'm thinking that King Cobra would become Copperhead, since they both have that stretchy/slippery snake gimmick going on. At least, they did before Coppie was revamped as a man-eating whatever he was in Manhunter...

-Mindbender
 
Scipio, you seem to know a suspicious amount about the denizens of the Marvel universe. You're a closet Spider-Man reader, aren't you?
 
Exhibit #1 to refute you: She-Hulk. Exhibit #2: the new Agents of Atlas.

I'm not saying you're completely wrong, but you can find examples of what you're saying at both companies.
 
Ye gods, I'm picturing a guy in a yellow hardhat RUNNING at top speed toward Hal Jordan, and it's slaying me.

He'd never actually hit Hal, of course, but Hal would instinctively back up and smash his head against a "YIELD" sign and knock himself out...
 
Heh heh heh. But of course...
 
"Scipio, you seem to know a suspicious amount about the denizens of the Marvel universe."

Heh heh; well, remember I do own some comic book stores...!
 
There's also the naughtily-named Purple Piledriver, who used to fight Superman. He was a head-driven menace.
 
"I'm not saying you're completely wrong, but you can find examples of what you're saying at both companies."

Oh, agreed, Greg! I'm painting my picture with a broad brush, and there are counterexamples (there usually are for any assertion!). But on the whole I think the distinction has some validity.

Another piece of the puzzle to consider...

Usually when DC makes a Marvel-parody character it remains a parody (e.g., Mr. Nebula).

But often when Marvel makes a DC-parody character, the readers start to take the character very seriously, which pushes the writers into doing so (e.g., Squadron Supreme).
 
"There's also the naughtily-named Purple Piledriver, who used to fight Superman."

I thought he just squirted green juices out of his head; did he actually ram stuff, too?
 
But often when Marvel makes a DC-parody character, the readers start to take the character very seriously, which pushes the writers into doing so (e.g., Squadron Supreme).

I never took the Squadron Supreme as a parody, but more of a homage. And DC had the Assemblers/Justifiers, if I recall the name correctly. I haven't read the old Avengers/Defenders appearances of the Squadron in years, but the Greunwald LS was pure homage, as well as - as far as I know - an attempt to ask the question "If Superman and the rest are so damn powerful, what's gonna happen when they decided to quit pussyfooting around?"

I've read about a connection between Squadron Supreme and "Kingdom Come", but I can't remember if it was decided the latter was influenced by/ripped-off from SS or not, but I don't think it's all that important, frankly.

And speaking of Spider-Man, wasn't there a Superman parody not too long ago? Some clean-cut, whitebread as hell big fella with amazing powers, a space-ship delivery, farmers for adopted parents, and eyeglasses for a disguise as a major metropolitan reporter. Was a Skrull, if I recall correctly. For the longest time, I thought it was the same dude as the Sentry, and probably should've been.
 
It's been a long time since I've read a story with the Purple Pile-Driver in it, but I thought his head prjected some sort of force field that let him smash through stuff. Without the smashing through stuff, why call him a piledriver?

But I certainly could be wrong.
 
This is exactly why Dan Slott is the best writer for Marvel today. If it wasn't for Squirrel Girl defeating every major Marvel villain, their whole line would be insufferable.

Oh yeah, Agents Of Atlas got off to a great start. It read like a Geoff Johns reclamation project.
 
Usually when DC makes a Marvel-parody character it remains a parody

Except in the strange case of Lobo, an obvious Wolverine parody who some fans, (usually Wolverine fans) took way way too seriously. (Including, for some reason, Dan DiDio.)
 
Wait, if Mr. Nebula is Galactus, what does that make Magna Khan? To say nothing of L-Ron.

Also, Kraven = Vartox? Ha!
 
Magna Kahn is the Silver Surfer.
 
I thought Scarlet Skier was the Silver Surfer?
 
Ah; touche.
 
Manga Khan was spoofin' on Shatner, I do believe.
 
"When I talk to DC readers, I hear them say things like, "my comics were so much fun this week!" (assuming, you know, that they think decapitations, eye-gougings, sunderance, and rape are "fun"). When I talk to Marvel fans, everything's about relative badassedness, which character can beat which, and how many pounds each can benchpress."

One of the things that created that mindset among Marvel readers, aside from the points you mentioned, is that an entire generation of Marvel fans grew up with the Marvel Universe Handbooks, which quantified every character on a power scale and provided fodder for those arguments. When I started reading comics, Marvel was simple; the power scale for heroes was Hulk, Thor, Wonder Man, Thing, then everyone else. (You could put Sub-Mariner on this list depending on whether or not Dr. Doom had told Namor a convincing lie that week or not.) After the Handbooks, every character had a level of strength and their powers worked out in pseudo-scientific ways. (Ahh, the wonders of an extradimensional source of mass...)

DC characters were defined in the Who's Who books in broad strokes ("super strength, superspeed, flight.") Marvel characters are defined in highly detailed ways, suitable for long arguments between readers. Which, yes, I've been involved in quite often...
 
I love reading these "why Marvel is different from DCs" rants but I'm still not convinced there a concious thematic dichotomy actually exists. It's a bit like saying "this is how Sony pop music is different from EMI pop music" (are they even seperate companies still?)

Seems to me you have to be a bit selective in order to make these calls. BLUE BEETLE (the new one) is about a guy's inability to pull his life together despite every possible advantage, FIRESTORM seems to lend itself to that too. Doesn't MANHUNTER have something to do an anti-hero killing established bad guys? OK I don't actually know about that one. NEW MUTANTS (the old one) had a self-transforming machine elf from another world, as well as a guy who was essentially a bird. That was funny. Chemo seems 10x as serious as Fing Fang Foom to me.

I prefer Marvel comics when there's a bit of lightness involved, eg DEAD GIRL, the recent DEFENDERS mini, FANTASTIC FOUR AND IRON MAN: BIG JAPAN all good; PLANET HULK, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: too serious.
 
"Rants"? Please remember that this is not a message board; it is my blog, and insulting your host is inappropriate, unnecessary, and, in this case, inaccurate.

"I'm still not convinced there a concious thematic dichotomy actually exists."

I don't recall saying -- oh, excuse me, I mean "ranting" -- that it was conscious.
 
She-Hulk is funny.
She-Hulk has recently dealt with the subject of rape and in a manner unique and appropriate to that story.
After I read She-Hulk each month I think, "That was so much fun."
You should be reading She-Hulk.

After all, I read Manhunter. So help a brother out.
 
Indeed. That fool Magneto never takes time off. He takes himself too damn seriously. I, on the other hand, am perfectly capable of taking a few weeks vacation now and again.
 
I've brought up Cable/Deadpool as often as others bring up She-Hulk, and well I'm doing it again.

It alone tied into civl-war, moved a sub plot along, and had squrriel girl beat some one up.

Freindly Neighborhood had Mysterio that was pretty over the top to.

But as you said there are counter examples to everything.

Of interesting note is that Squadron Supreme is actually going to be in conflict with The thunderbolts who were the bad guy parody of the Avengers.

:)
 
Lighter Side of Dr. Psycho? I remember that one time when his superpower was the ability to shapeshift into the form of Mussolini. How useful it would be in America's heartland in time of war to assume the shape of an Axis leader is a matter for others to debate.
 
How could some lame fool like Beetle become the man of god-like confidence who is Killer Moth? Killer Moth cannot be reproduced! Marvel knows this and they haven't tried yet (thank God!).
 
"But as is the law in comic books, all things innocent must be spoiled..." (from one of your earlier entries)

Just you wait, eventually ALL DC villains will become just like Marvel villains. It's started already, you know. Remember that issue of Peter David's Supergirl where Chemo went on and on about all his issues and problems? CHEMO fer cryin' out loud! Ah well.
 
My take on this is that the DC universe tends to be silly whereas the Marvel universe tends to be serious. Except when Marvel tries to do silly or DC tries to do serious, of course.

However, I feel that Marvel's attempts at humour work better than DC's because it's like humour in our serious world - it contrasts with all the serious stuff.

Whereas DC doing humour/silly in a generally silly universe is just silly.

When I talk to DC readers, I hear them say things like, "my comics were so much fun this week!" (assuming, you know, that they think decapitations, eye-gougings, sunderance, and rape are "fun").

And that sentence makes it sound like you're saying that it is the readers that think DC is not as serious and more fun. Not the comics themselves.

So is it simply an assumed difference or an actual difference, I wonder?
 
Chemo has a lighter side!?!?!
 
"Lighter Side of Dr. Psycho?"

Dr. "these glasses make me look good" Psycho? Yes, Dr. Psycho is often funny.

Never pleasant, but often funny.

"Chemo has a lighter side!?!?!"

Oop.

"Remember that issue of Peter David's Supergirl where Chemo went on and on"

Fortunaely, no. And "Peter David's Anything" is really about Peter David; 'mis-re-intepreting' characters is what he does.
 
Stan Lee becomes Funky Flashman...

It also seems that Marvel is a little more mean spirited in their parodies.
 
I'll agree with you, since we're admittedly painting in broad strokes.

I think Marvel tends more toward f@#$ yeah! moments (like Punisher killing a drug dealer so he can get into the same prison that's holding Matt Murdock) while the best DC moments revel in over-the-top absurdity (Dr. Virus!)

Oh yes, and the Grey Gargoyle becomes+ the Silver Ghost in the DC universe. Kind of an even trade there.
 
That is why I cannot read modern comics! I just realized it! It is because they're too serious. They tell a story much better now than they did in the Silver Age, but the stories they tell aren't worth reading. I don't want to read about a homicidal Joker shooting people in the spine! I want to read about the Joker slapping Batman with his Duffel Bag! (Or man-purse, whatever.)

Even though DC is, on the whole, sillier than Marvel, it's still too serious. JLU didn't take itself seriously, I think Bruce Timm understands. (Even though he is a big Marvel fan.) Having Batman sing "Am I Blue" in a nightclub to change Wonder Woman back from a pig is something DC would never print today.

Please, are there any current DC series which print fun material on a regular basis? I'd buy that!
 
Preach it as it is, Bat-Mite! I too find myself hard-pressed to read new comics for almost the exact reasons (as well as the added evil that they got rid of classic Killer Moth).
 
Little known fact: the Joker invented the man-purse. That where all his money actually comes from.
 
Please, are there any current DC series which print fun material on a regular basis? I'd buy that!

Action Comics, Superman, and All-Star Superman. Detective Comics. Birds Of Prey and Secret Six. Manhunter. Teen Titans. Blue Beetle. Green Lantern Corps. 52. Supergirl & The Legion Of Super-Heroes. Agents Of Atlas and She-Hulk. Oh wait... those last two are Marvel.

I find all of these fun, and all of them occasionally has a "Joker shot someone in the spine" moment. That's because superhero comics are occassionally violent!

Fortunately, it's all fiction.
 
Surely there's something a little mean about Funky Flashman (and Houseroy!)despite the joke? Similarly Jim Shooter gets done over in Legends by Guy Gardner...has Marvel ever made caricatures of DC staff?
 
I'd say Secret Six, Teen Titans, Green Lantern Corps, 52, and possibly Blue Beetle don't really fit the kind of fun he's looking for. (Not that I don't enjoy all those series myself, mind you.)
 
I agree with your overall assessment, Scipio, and recommend the Steve Gerber Defenders comics for "when serious super-heroes go silly, but don't seem to know it."

I think the 2 companies are a bit more like each other (or more like Marvel, anyway) with all the Civil Warring and Annihilating and Crisising and 52-ing. The way writers & artists jump from company to company tends to mix up the companies' identities, I think.
 
This is why Doctor Domino and his kind will never be taken seriously.
 
I'd say Secret Six, Teen Titans, Green Lantern Corps, 52, and possibly Blue Beetle don't really fit the kind of fun he's looking for. (Not that I don't enjoy all those series myself, mind you.)

I'm sure he wouldn't. His question implies that a book has to be either/or... either fun OR violent. I reject that arguement.
 
Well, they're not current, but I maintain that there are few DC books more fun than Preacher and Transmetropolitan.
 
The All-New Atom seems pretty fun after the first couple of issues.
 
"rants" was not intended as a slight, I was just using it in the broadest possible sense, i.e. an opinion expounded on the Internet. Sorry for the insult.
 
You also seem to reject that someone could *want* a fun book without violence.

Yeah, The All-New Atom is another recommended one.

And yeah, "rants" for "Internet opinion essays" is fairly common slang, at least in the webcomics world (not to be confused with the web comics world).
 
"The Next" by Tad Williams is written to be funny, and it is. Not to mention some fun, lucid art.
 
All I could think of when I read this little thing was "god I can't wait for the next NextWave to come out."
 
OK, aside from the fact that I'm not 100% convinced by your premise (I'd say 65%, tops. Both companies have been imitating each other's trends and tropes for long enough that you can find places where DC is trying to be like Marvel and vice versa, so selective perception is required to find a "definitive" identity for either company.)

Aside from that...I think you have some of these wrong. The Green Goblin is clearly the Joker, not the Trickster. (Just like Spider-Man is clearly Batman, not the Flash.) Doctor Doom becomes Sonar, Scorpion becomes Killer Croc, the Super-Adaptoid becomes Amazo (not sure who the Super-Skrull becomes), and Klaw becomes Deathstroke the Terminator. (Yes, I know, you went for the "sonic powers = sonic powers" thing, but I feel it's more accurate to have one amoral mercenary who fights superheroes a lot become another.)

I hope this helps.
 
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?